So often I see adult children worrying and wondering if they should get help caring for elderly parents. Do they have what they need? Are they safe at home? Are they taking their medications? Eating well?
It is unnerving, to say the least to have to shoulder all that burden and those worries, yourself.
Who really needs help?
The truth is, it is difficult to decide when your parent needs some help at home. This is especially true if you’re a long-distance caregiver.
You see, the line between those who are doing OK at home and those that could really use some assistance is blurry at times. The truth is, most everyone could use some help. But, you have to balance the needs and wants, so you choose the right time to have help step in.
There have been many studies done to try and arrive at an answer as to what kind of help for seniors should be available and when they need it most. (You can check out this study for more information.)
According to that study, there are a few different levels at which a person might need increased assistance. For instance, they:
- Use special devices (assistive technology) to work around a disability.
- Have reduced how often they do an activity, but report no difficulty.
- Have difficulty doing an activity (even if they use a special device).
- Need to get help from someone.
Caring for elderly parents
My primary focus when working with adult children caring for elderly parents is to create a situation where the parent can maintain or increase their quality of life.
Sometimes, that is as simple as having someone come in and help around the house or cook meals. Other times, it can mean a much more creative plan of care.
With that in mind, here are a few areas I find people have in common, in terms of what they need help with regularly.
Mobility, access & safety
If your parent isn’t able to easily and safely get into and around in their home, not much else is going to help. If a person is going to retain a level of independence, you must assess and account for their mobility, and the accessibility and safety of their home.
That’s why one of the first things I will suggest is to have a home assessment completed. So we can discuss how to best create the right home modifications, which are best suited for them.
A person is typically as healthy as their commitment to their health and the medical care that supports it. When you’re caring for elderly parents, there are many reasons their health might take a back seat. That’s why working with someone to coordinate medical care, socialization and medication management is so important.
One thing that can be very difficult to keep up with is all the transportation needs an older person has. In many cases, once a person gets a certain age (or, suffer from certain conditions), it is no longer wise to have them drive.
So, all of those doctor appointments, social and religious activities (that they really need), outings, day-to-day tasks and errands … arranging for a ride (or even supervision) for these can be time consuming.
Caring for themselves
Being able to take care of yourself on a daily basis is fundamental to independence. Often times, a person finds themselves in a temporary (or ongoing) situation where they need help with activities, such as:
- Personal grooming
- Other self-care activities
Food and exercise
Proper nutrition is important for everyone. If your parent is not eating well (regardless of the reason), that is a situation that needs to be fixed quickly.
So much of our life is determined by our health. And, so much of our health is determined by our food and exercise.
It is relatively easy to take the right steps to ensure your parents have the food and opportunities for exercise. There are programs and professionals available to make it happen in our community.